DJI Mavic Air

DJI has squeezed pro pho­tog­ra­phy smarts into its lat­est por­ta­ble aerial shooter, but is the Mavic Air re­ally the best in its class?

T3 India - - Tested -

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Ev­ery­one’s idea of a dream hol­i­day is dif­fer­ent, and if yours in­volves high-oc­tane pur­suits you may have con­sid­ered buy­ing a drone to cap­ture your ad­ven­tures. We’re now spoiled for choice with mid-priced drones, and DJI is lead­ing the pack for fea­tures, func­tion and style. Es­pe­cially with the Mavic Air, a slick, su­per-por­ta­ble con­sumer drone built for cap­tur­ing life out­doors. Ready for ac­tion

What’s im­me­di­ately ap­peal­ing about the Mavic Air is its size and weight. With the Trans­formeresque fold­away arms re­tracted, the drone mea­sures less than 17cm nose-to-nose and only 9cm across. The col­lapsi­ble gam­ing style con­troller is even smaller.

Setup is in­cred­i­bly easy: charge the con­troller and In­tel­li­gent Flight Bat­tery, down­load the DJI Go 4 app (An­droid/iOS) to your de­vice and in­stall the push/twist pro­pel­lers. The app guides begin­ners through the process of get­ting air­borne, while Begin­ner mode re­stricts al­ti­tude and speed as you learn the ropes.

Con­sid­er­ing the high winds on test day, we were con­cerned as to whether the Mavic Air would per­form. In nor­mal con­di­tions the drone’s pow­er­ful sens­ing sys­tems and 3-axis cam­era gim­bal work in har­mony to keep flight sta­ble and footage smooth,

but high winds re­ally test a drone’s met­tle. We needn’t have wor­ried, as the Mavic Air nav­i­gates the breeze with cat-like stealth. Man­ual flight is fun when you know how, but DJI’s auto Quick­Shot mode is so good you don’t need any fancy pi­lot stripes to shoot cin­e­matic footage.

Cap­tur­ing a selfie or cir­cling around a point of in­ter­est is as sim­ple as se­lect­ing the right mode within the DJI Go app, tap­ping the sub­ject on your de­vice’s screen and watch­ing the drone do its thing. As­teroid mode is new for the Mavic Air and is un­like any­thing we’ve seen be­fore – se­lect your target on-screen and the drone shoots 25 photos at var­i­ous an­gles be­fore stitch­ing them into an im­mer­sive, spher­i­cal 32MP panorama wor­thy of shar­ing with ev­ery­one.

Use the force

DJI’s recog­ni­tion tech never fails to im­press. In Ac­tiveTrack mode, se­lect a mov­ing ob­ject on screen and the drone fol­lows with pre­ci­sion. Or, en­gage SmartCap­ture, flash the peace sign at the front of the drone and the cam­era snaps a selfie. It’s a nov­elty in the lo­cal park, but re­place the kid­die swings with a moun­tain peak and the re­sults would surely be epic.

Ges­ture Launch will bring out your in­ner Jedi. Use an out­stretched arm and for­ward-fac­ing palm to launch then con­trol the Mavic Air. Widen­ing both arms sends the drone away from you; clos­ing your arms brings it back.

Re­lin­quish­ing the con­trols of an ex­pen­sive drone to the au­topi­lot is daunt­ing at first, but the Mavic Air has plenty of built-in safety smarts. GPS logs the take-off location and re­turns to that spot at the push of a but­ton, or au­to­mat­i­cally if the drone runs into trou­ble. Crash­ing is nigh-on im­pos­si­ble, as 3D vi­sion sen­sors at the front, rear and belly scan for hazards.

Cinema gold

So far so fun, but it’s not all Jedi tricks – the Mavic Air is also a pro aerial pho­tog­ra­phy tool. In Tri­pod mode the con­troller re­sponse is re­duced and max speed is dropped to just 2.2mph, en­abling even the most ham-fisted pi­lots to pro­duce video gold. Al­ter­na­tively, Cin­e­matic Mode in­creases brak­ing dis­tance and smooths ro­ta­tions for slicker con­trol at higher speeds. In the past we’ve con­signed jerky ses­sions to the trash. Af­ter shoot­ing in these modes, 95 per cent of footage was edit-ready.

Though the Mavic Air’s cam­era is small, it packs a big punch. On-board is a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sen­sor and the ca­pa­bil­ity to shoot 4K video up to

30fps. Drop to 1080p and you’ll eek out 120fps, per­fect for slow-mo ed­its. The Mavic Air’s ISO range (100-1600 in auto mode) means it can strug­gle a lit­tle in low light, but the im­pres­sive

100Mbps cap­ture rate de­liv­ers colours and footage that re­ally pops. Know­ing you can shoot great footage with­out get­ting your hands dirty in man­ual set­tings en­ables you to en­joy the mo­ment. And isn’t that what great tech is sup­posed to help us do?

The Mavic Air has a neat party trick: Ges­tureLaunch mode, which is like a pinch-to-zoom func­tion on a tablet

Dur­ing test­ing, even when bat­tling strong winds, the Mavic Air took ćLJKW ZLWK HDVH staying air­borne for the full 21 min­utes

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